Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2018-03-21
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage



SCOTTISH PLAY SCOTT Firebrand feminism with 'Lizzie'
by Scott C. Morgan, Windy City Times

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Timing can be everything, even if it's unintentional. That's what the new Firebrand Theatre in Chicago lucked out on last year when its founding members announced their mission to create the world's first feminist musical theater company.

Firebrand's press launch happened to fall on International Women's Day on March 8. That, in turn, helped to garner some major press attention for the nascent company.

"I'd like to say we planned it, but we didn't," said Firebrand Theatre Artistic Director Harmony France. "So American Theatre magazine picked it up. Playbill picked it up. And you know in Chicago there's a new theater company every other day, so we didn't expect the national exposure that we got."

Firebrand hadn't even announced a season of shows at that point. Yet news of a feminist musical theater company struck a nerve among many women stage artists across the country.

One was the international freelance stage director Victoria Bussert. Her past local credits include working at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire and with Pegasus Players.

"[Firebrand] is a cause I believe in," Bussert said. "And I was thrilled to be a part of it in any way I could."

"[Bussert is] an incredible director," France said. "We're so insanely lucky as a brand new company to have this nationally renowned director step in."

For Firebrand's inaugural show, Bussert suggested staging the Chicago premiere of the acclaimed 2009 off-Broadway rock musical Lizzie. Like so many opera, ballet and other stage works before it, Lizzie is inspired by the notorious 1892 ax murders of Lizzie Borden's father and stepmother.

"We hadn't even applied for the rights yet," said France, adding that Lizzie had been on Firebrand's radar. ( France first learned about Lizzie since it was also under consideration by Bailiwick Chicago when she starred in their productions of Violet and Dessa Rose. )

"I was thrilled that it was something that they knew about," said Bussert, adding that she is close friends with Lizzie authors Steven Cheslik-deMeyer, Tim Maner and Alan Stevens Hewitt.

Bussert has been associated with directing productions of Lizzie since 2010. Firebrand's production with be Bussert's sixth time directing Lizzie, following on the heels of the musical's London premiere earlier this year that starred Broadway veteran Eden Espinosa ( Wicked, Brooklyn ).

"It's very unique piece of theater … and it ultimately is about breaking through the patriarchy—or hacking through the patriarchy," Bussert said with a laugh. "One of the things that I've discovered with every production I've done of Lizzie is that it changes the women who are in it. It takes all the women out of their comfort zones and becomes extremely empowering."

Like so many people, Bussert first learned about Lizzie Border via the macabre nursery rhyme: Lizzie Borden took an axe/ Gave her mother 40 whacks/ When she saw what she had done/Gave her father 41.

Bussert later became an unapologetic obsessive about all things tied to Lizzie Borden when she directed soprano Lauren Flannigan in Mira J. Spektor and Ruth Whitman's one-woman opera called The Passion of Lizzie Borden. Bussert's research prodded her to read transcripts of the murder trial testimony, and to even stay in the Lizzie Borden house ( now a bed and breakfast in Fall River, Massachusetts ).

Bussert's knowledge also stretches to speculation that Lizzie Borden may have had a lesbian relationship with the actress Nance O'Neil many years after the murders. The authors of Lizzie picked up on this by re-imagining a thwarted lesbian relationship between Lizzie and Alice Russell ( in real life a much older woman who lived nearby the Borden home ).

"She and Lizzie share an attraction to each other and share a physical relationship up to a point," Bussert said. "When it comes to Alice lying on Lizzie's behalf, that's the one thing she cannot do. Which is very true to what happened with the real Alice Russell, because if she had not testified to the grand jury [about seeing Lizzie burn a dress after the murders], Lizzie would never have been arrested."

"One of the reasons that Lizzie Borden has captured our attention for so long is that this is one of the only 'crimes of the century' that was a woman," France said. "[The musical] goes into things that she dealt with her family and I also think part of its story is repressing that side of her and being a lesbian definitely does not her mental health by any means. There's also stories of abuse."

Since Lizzie only features four actresses, Bussert and France wanted to give more performance opportunities to the show's understudies. So a late-night concert version featuring highlights from the show will give Lizzie's understudies a chance to tear through the rock score.

"Hopefully if people love the show, they will be curious to see it with a different cast," said France about the understudy concerts. "Firebrand's mission is that we are committed to employing and empowering women on and off the stage, so if I can find opportunities to showcase and empower more women, I'm always going to do it."

Firebrand Theatre presents the Chicago premiere of Lizzie Nov. 11-Dec. 17 at the Den Theatre's Bookspan Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave. Previews run through Sunday, Nov. 12. Previews are $25, late-night understudy shows are $30 and regular-run tickets are $45; visit .

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


Gay News

W.O.M.B. marks first anniversary at Affinity 2018-03-22 - E. Nina J. and Lucy Shumpert marked the first anniversary of their monthly women of color poetry and spoken word open mic night ...

Gay News

Firebrand Theatre Presents 9 TO 5 The Musical, Music & Lyrics by Dolly Parton 2018-03-22 - CHICAGO ( March 21, 2018 ) — Following its critically acclaimed hit LIZZIE, Firebrand Theatre, the first musical theatre company committed to employing ...

Gay News

SPRING THEATER PREVIEW Gay take on Shakespeare play has Bollywood flair 2018-03-21 - In all of Shakespeare's writings, there's only one un-coded and undeniably gay man. He's Antonio, titular merchant of The Merchant of Venice. Without ...

Gay News

THEATER SPOTLIGHT Bad Girls: The Stylists 2018-03-21 - A quintet of actors play more than two dozen roles in Bad Girls: The Stylists, Astrid Saalbach's dark-to-its-roots comedy about stylists and clientele ...

Gay News

THEATER REVIEW The Picture of Dorian Gray 2018-03-21 - Playwright Adapted by Paul Edwards, from the novel by Oscar Wilde At: City Lit Theatre, 1020 W. Bryn Mawr Ave. Tickets: 773-293-3682, ...

Gay News

THEATER REVIEW Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street 2018-03-21 - Written by: Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler At: No Exit Cafe, 6970 N. Glenwood Ave. Tickets: $39-69 ( higher price includes dinner ). ...

Gay News

THEATER Critics' Picks 2018-03-21 - Schiller's Mary Stuart, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, through April 15. Hailed as a clash of queens—Mary of Scots vs. Elizabeth of England—it's far more ...

Gay News

THEATER REVIEW Hang Man 2018-03-21 - Playwright: Stacy Osei-Kuffour At: Gift Theatre, 4802 N. Milwaukee. Tickets: 773-283-7071;; $30-$40. Runs through: April 29 Whether it's the play itself, ...

Gay News

SPRING THEATER PREVIEW Musicals: Fresh flowers and old chestnuts 2018-03-21 - If quantity is your thing, it's a great spring for musical theater; you'll be up to your ears in singers and dancers. ...

Gay News

SPRING THEATER PREVIEW Premieres reflect global awareness 2018-03-21 - Playwrights and the theaters who showcase them are finally catching up with the times. Audiences looking to shake off the inertia of winter ...


Copyright © 2018 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.








About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group produces Windy City Queercast, & publishes Windy City Times,
The Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community,
Nightspots, Out! Resource Guide, and Identity.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.